Huffpost Politics

Kentucky Considers Legalizing Medical Marijuana

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A bill introduced in the Kentucky House of Representatives last week would legalize the use of marijuana for patients with certain medical conditions. | Hannah Keogh via Getty Images

The Bluegrass State is considering legalizing medical marijuana.

A proposed law introduced last week in the Kentucky House of Representatives would allow patients with certain debilitating medical conditions to possess up to three ounces of weed and to grow up to 12 mature cannabis plants, as long as they have a recommendation from a doctor.

"Cannabis's recorded use as a medicine goes back nearly 5,000 years," notes the proposed law, which is known as the Compassionate Care Act. "Cannabis has many currently accepted medical uses in the United States, having been recommended by thousands of licensed physicians."

The 48-page bill names a number of medical conditions that could qualify a person to access legal pot in the state. The list includes glaucoma, anorexia, cancer, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C, Crohn's disease, Alzheimer's, PTSD, diabetes, fibromyalgia, autism, ulcerative colitis, and injuries that significantly interfere with daily activities.

If the bill becomes law, it would create a system of cultivation facilities to grow the weed, testing facilities to make sure it's safe for consumption, and licensed dispensaries to sell it. The dispensaries would not be allowed within 500 feet of schools, and the bill would not change the state's laws against smoking in public and operating motor vehicles while stoned.

Although a medical marijuana bill has been introduced in the state Senate, the Compassionate Care Act marks the first time the House has seen such an effort, according to local Channel 2 news.

"I think that it’s time that we give people in Kentucky access to something that may help them,” state Rep. Mary Lou Marzian (D-Louisville), who authored the bill, told the local outlet. “The data shows that there are very few side effects. And if we can control it and regulate it and make sure that it gets into the right hands and [that] it’s gone through a medical provider, I think it’s beneficial.”

Opponents of medical marijuana say the drug has a high potential for abuse and leads to experimentation with more dangerous narcotics. At a medical marijuana hearing last month, state Rep. Robert Benvenuti (R-Lexington) warned that medical marijuana could be a "Trojan horse" for legalizing recreational marijuana, which he claimed could, in turn, lead to the deaths of children.

Benvenuti isn't the only Kentucky lawmaker who likely won't be supporting Kentucky's Compassionate Care Act. State Sen. Perry Clark (D-Louisville), who introduced a similar medical marijuana bill in the state Senate in January, said that some state politicians who had supported his bill early on have since backed away from it.

Clark told The Huffington Post there is still a lot of misinformation about the drug.

"Anytime you talk about cannabis, you bring in 90 years of lies, distortion and propaganda -- things that have nothing to do with medical marijuana," Clark lamented over the phone on Monday.

But Clark said Kentucky has made significant progress on the issue lately.

"We've had three or four hearings held discussing medical marijuana. That's an amazing thing. That's a major change in this state," he said. "We're talking about the nuances of the plan. To me that's a victory."

Kentucky residents may be more supportive of the measure. According to a poll released in May, 78 percent of the state's citizens think people with serious illnesses should be able to use medical weed if their doctors recommend it.

Although 20 states and Washington, D.C., have already passed laws legalizing medical marijuana, such laws have been slow to take hold in the South.

The Compassionate Care Act has not yet been assigned to committee.

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